MARBLE HILL, NY – Wasn’t planning on writing a post this week, but this one’s for me and my brother. It’s about our Dad. He was a great Dad in so many ways. He not only gave me an appreciation of sports, he also dragged my brother and I to countless revival theaters as youngsters and introduced us to classic old movies such as Gunga Din and The Maltese Falcon, MGM Musicals starring Kelly and Sinatra, and the genius comedies of the Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy and W.C. Fields, among others. He was also a Jazz aficionado, having acted as a press agent for trumpet player Jonah Jones and the legendary Cab Calloway, and took me to see such luminaries as Woody Herman and Benny Goodman before they passed on. Finally, though he hailed from Minnesota, Dad was a New Yorker through and through. He was a tour guide on the Circle Line for over 30 years (more on this shortly) and, together with my Mom, showed us just how much this great city had to offer. He lived and breathed New York and, unlike his youngest son, even rooted for all of its teams, but 2 in particular.
The Mets. Like so many other New Yorkers, my Dad kinda took a shine to the Mets from the start. Through his jazz connections he was good friends with Mets’ organist Jane Jarvis, the Queen of Melody herself. As the story goes, my Dad was practically a shoe-in to be the Mets’ Public Address Announcer, but decided that the Circle Line gig, along with his press agent and cartoon work was the smarter play. Not sure he felt this way later in life. But speaking of his cartoon work, he did illustrate the little-seen and hardly-remembered Mets songbook back in 1966 which, years after his death, ended up in an exhibit in Lincoln Center on baseball-related art and artifacts, much of it donated by Jarvis.
The New York Football Giants. Dad had tickets to the Giants dating back to the days of Yankee Stadium and the Yale Bowl. Even though I gravitated towards the Vikings of his home state, he stayed true to Big Blue. Some of the best memories I have were going to football games with him. We’d take the bus out of the Port Authority and would stay until the final whistle. Dad was no fan of leaving games before they were over. He also subjected us to Columbia Football games, just a stone’s throw from where we grew up in Upper Manhattan.
At the end of one game, I remember a hot dog vendor getting rid of his foil-wrapped stock for a nickel a dog. Dad bought 20, stuffed them in his over-sized coat pockets and said to me and my brother, “Don’t tell your mother.”
In all, he was a great sport across the board. He took both wins and losses with a lot more humility and dignity than most. He abhorred touchdown celebrations and boxers thanking Jesus, but never to the point of giving up on those sports. He was also a big proponent of saving Dairy Lea Milk container coupons for free Mets tickets. About the only hole in his sports resume was that he wasn’t at all a hockey fan, which was odd for someone coming from The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
But, then again… Dad was one of a kind.